Any trip to Paris prompts questions about where to stay and where to eat. Another choice that’s important to many travelers is deciding which Paris flea market is best to visit. Paris is a haven for antiques, collectibles, and vintage items. If those light you up, I strongly recommend going to one of the dedicated flea and antiques markets in Paris. Two of the best are Clignancourt (le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen) and Porte de Vanves (le Marché aux Puces de Porte de Vanves). Here are my suggestions for how to determine which might suit you best.
What kind of items interest you? If you’re looking for major home furnishings such as sofas, chairs, mirrors, dining tables, chandeliers, etc., then Clignancourt is your best bet. It has a wider selection of large and high-end items (read pricey).
On the other hand, if you’re inclined toward smaller and less expensive knickknacks that you can tuck into a suitcase, then that’s the forté of Porte de Vanves.
The distinction isn’t always sharp– Clignancourt also has plenty of stalls selling small and medium-sized items, so you can cover all bases there, and Porte de Vanves has some furniture, paintings, and other large items. However, I stand by it as a general rule of thumb.
What kind of shopping experience do you prefer—a big and rambling market or a smaller one? If you like big, then take the plunge and head to Clignancourt. If you’re more comfortable with a smaller, more intimate market experience (though still with a sizable selection), then you’ll prefer Porte de Vanves.
Think of Clignancourt as a bunch of markets rolled up into one big flea and antiques market extravaganza. It’s actually comprised of 15 different markets, each with its own personality and rough similarity in types of items for sale. You can easily spend a whole day at Clignancourt and still not see it all. The sprawling nature of Clignancourt can be confusing, especially for first-timers. My advice is to wander, wander, wander, and don’t miss the stalls in the markets-within-the-market such as Vernaison (claims to be the oldest flea market in Paris), Dauphine, Biron, Paul Bert, and Serpette.
The Porte de Vanves flea market offers the opposite experience. One can stroll the entire market in an hour or two, or longer depending on your pace. It’s easily manageable to see all the stalls and still have a good portion of the day remaining for other activities. Also, the layout of Porte de Vanves is straightforward: a couple of consecutive and intersecting blocks.
Which location is most convenient for you? Clignancourt (also known as Saint-Ouen) is on the northern side of Paris, a hair beyond the 18th arrondissement and the major highway that encircles the city, known as the périphérique. It’s accessible by Métro line 4, exit Porte de Clignancourt. Or the line 13, exit Garibaldi. Coming from the Métro, be prepared to wade through low-end stalls with knock-offs before you get to the heart of the Clignancourt market.
Porte de Vanves is located in the opposite direction, at the southern edge of Paris. It’s in the 14th arrondissement and easily accessible by the Métro line 13, exit Porte de Vanves.
How important is it to you to eat in the market? If you want to make a full outing of it, shopping plus eating, then Clignancourt offers the attraction of several eateries. The brasserie Chez Louisette, an institution unto itself, is tucked inside the Vernaison market. It serves simple, traditional French fare, often accompanied by live music and singing. Another restaurant is Ma Cocotte, a trendy spot designed by Philippe Starck. No reservations are accepted for Saturday or Sunday lunch, so be prepared for a wait and put your name on the list.
At the Porte de Vanves market, the only option on the market premises is a food truck serving light snacks and beverages.
Which days do you have available for going to flea market? Hopefully, you’ve got free time on the weekend. Both markets are open Saturday and Sunday. Clignancourt is also open on Monday (though some stalls are closed). If Monday is the only day that’s available on your itinerary, then your choice is easy: Clignancourt. But if Saturdays and Sundays are also options, then you’ll need to factor in the choices mentioned above.
Either way—Clignancourt or Porte de Vanves—you can’t go wrong. Both are excellent flea markets. My recommendation? Do them both. One on a Saturday, the other on a Sunday. For treasure hunters, that’s called a perfect weekend in Paris.
Clignancourt (Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen) is open Saturday 10 am-6 pm, Sunday 10 am-6 pm, Monday 11 am-5 pm. Some stall holders close earlier than these official hours. For my earlier write-ups of Clignancourt, see here and here. For the official website, click here. The market remains open in August, although with reduced activity. For a description of the different markets that comprise Clignancourt, go directly to this page.
Chez Louisette is located at 130, avenue Michelet. It’s open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 8:30 am-6:30 pm.
Ma Cocotte restaurant is located at 106, rue des Rosiers by Marché Paul Bert & Serpette. It’s open daily for lunch and dinner.
Porte de Vanves (Le Marché aux Puces de Porte de Vanves) is open Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 am-1 pm. Some stallholders start closing before 1 pm. Here’s a link to their official website.